SC will decide who will be the next president

(The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2015 - 9:00am

It’s pretty clear we most likely will have another minority president like President Aquino because of our multiparty system where we have at least four candidates running for the same office. For sure, these disqualification cases being filed against certain candidates will now even be more disconcerting because the next president may just win by “default.”

Consider: Three weeks after Vice President Jejomar Binay declared his intention to run for president in July last year, a case of plunder was almost immediately filed before the Ombudsman by Renato Bundal and Nicolas Enciso. What followed thereafter was a “coordinated attack” according to Binay supporters, with Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearings, an investigation by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, with graft, malversation and other cases also filed against the vice president’s wife and son.

A few days ago, the Comelec Second Division disqualified Senator Grace Poe as presidential candidate, saying she did not meet residency requirements. The senator – a foundling left at the doorstep of a church in Jaro, Iloilo – now finds herself facing more disqualification cases over the issue of her residency and her status as a natural-born Filipino.

Two days after the Second Division ruling, the Senate Electoral Tribunal affirmed its decision that the senator is a natural-born citizen, validating her triumph in the 2013 Senate elections that she topped with over 20 million votes. People who claim that the votes of the five senators favoring Poe were “politically motivated” should consider Senator Bam Aquino who, despite being the campaign manager of Mar Roxas, voted for Poe.

One other candidate also facing disqualification is Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who is substituting for Martin Diño who filed his Certificate of Candidacy under PDP-Laban. Just a few hours after Duterte formally filed his COC for president, a Mindanao-based broadcaster filed a petition to nullify the candidacy of the mayor saying the COC of Diño is defective since the latter indicated he was running for the position of mayor of Pasay City. Duterte has vowed to fight his disqualification case all the way to the Supreme Court. 

The garrulous mayor now also has to defend himself after uttering a swearword against Pope Francis whom he blamed for causing traffic during the pope’s visit last January. Perhaps stung by the strong statement issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines saying the mayor’s “vulgarity” and the flaunting of his two wives and mistresses is also a form of corruption, Duterte retaliated, claiming that he experienced sexual abuse by a priest when he was a high school student at the Ateneo de Davao.

Dared to name names, Duterte – who was expelled from Ateneo de Davao due to misconduct and spent seven years in high school – gave the name of Father Paul Falvey, alleging that two classes of high school boys “before and after” his batch were also subjected to sexual abuse by the Jesuit priest. Naturally, these allegations are now a cause of concern among many Ateneans including my Ateneo high school Batch ’65 classmates who by the way are celebrating our golden jubilee (see photos in “This Week on PeopleAsia” at the Allure section today at The Philippine STAR). Many of our classmates from all over the world were not amused to hear something like this especially since the alleged abuser priest is already dead.

Anyway, these disqualification cases will involve “legal acrobatics” with opposing interpretations regarding the law. The residency issue against Grace Poe stems from her certificate of candidacy when she was running for the Senate that says she had been a resident of the Philippines for six years and six months – a fact pounced upon by her opponents saying she is six-months short of the 10-year residency requirement on the day of the elections itself.

However, legal experts such as Sixto Brillantes, Romulo Macalintal, Mel Sta. Maria, Ateneo School of Government dean Tony La Viña, Fr. Ranny Aquino and former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban say the senator has satisfied the residency requirements, citing facts like her intention to return to the country after her father died in 2004, like the  enrollment of her children in Philippine schools, putting up their house in the US for sale and acquiring a Philippine property in 2005.

The law experts say it is the fact of her residence, not a statement in a certificate of candidacy, which should be the deciding factor, pointing to the 1995 case of former First Lady Imelda Marcos where the Supreme Court ruled that “animus revertendi” or the intention to return does not make one lose “domicile” or the place of “habitual residence” where one always intends to return despite a long absence.

As La Viña also explained, the “intention to return” is established by one’s links to a place – birthplace, parents, friends, ancestral links – all of which far outweigh the honest mistake Poe made in her 2013 COC. Poe’s camp also feels “déjà vu” since her father also faced a disqualification case over his citizenship since he was an illegitimate child of an American mother and a Filipino father. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of FPJ, saying proof of paternity is enough for a child to take on the citizenship of his putative father.  

When all is said and done, these disqualification cases will be decided by 15 people – the honorable justices of the Supreme Court. Hopefully, these august men and women will make a decision favoring what is good for the country. The future of over 100 million Filipinos depends on them with their ruling ultimately shaping  the future of our country.

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